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Three Tales of Three Houses

  • Peter Gottschalk

The house has stood empty since Partition. Its Muslim family abandoned their Bihari village in India for a new life in West Pakistan, 1,300 kilometers distant. Unlike most other homes left behind by emigrants, this one's doors still open to its owner's keys, since his brothers remained in their homes nearby. One of those brothers follows invitations across north India preaching the Tablighi Islamic revival. In conversation, he demonstrates little interest in the religious traditions of the Hindu majority of his large village. Two decades ago, his son, Farhad, opened one of the first private schools in the area, anticipating the surging demand for education that has overtaken India. Some of the first classrooms built had brick walls pierced by concrete screens decoratively depicting a Quran, crescent moon, and star. Most of the school's students and many of its teachers are Hindu.

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1 Larson, Gerald James, “Partition: The ‘Pulsing Heart that Grieved,’Journal of Asian Studies 73, no. 1 (2014): 58.

2 Ibid., 6.

3 Ibid.

4 Ahmad, Imtiaz and Reifeld, Helmut, eds., Lived Islam in South Asia: Adaptation, Accommodation & Conflict (Delhi: Social Science Press, 2004). One of the most recent anthologies on Hindu traditions is Kumar, P. Pratap, ed., Contemporary Hinduism (Durham, UK: Acumen Publishing, 2013).

5 See Smith, Wilfred Cantwell, The Meaning and End of Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, [1962] 1991).

6 Note by Census Commissioner, January 10, 1931, Home Department, Public Branch, File No. 1-5/31-Pub. 1931, National Archives of India.

7 Larson, op. cit. note 1, 7.

8 Two exemplary examples of such scholarship: Belamy, Carla, The Powerful Ephemeral: Everyday Healing in an Ambiguously Islamic Place (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), and Bigelow, Anna, Sharing the Sacred: Practicing Pluralism in Muslim North India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

9 Larson, op. cit. note 1, 6.

10 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “2012 Hate Crime Statistics: Victims,” (accessed April 6, 2014).

11 Larson, op. cit. note 1, 5.

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  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
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